Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

Previous Posts



November 27, 2007

*You meet a nice young man, and go on a couple dates. There is nothing wrong with him, but there is no spark between you. Do you keep going out with him, or move on?

*There are two jobs advertised ­ Director and Assistant Director. You feel you are qualified to hold either position. For which job do you apply?

*Down three points with 10 seconds to go. Fourth down and goal from the one.
You can play for the tie, or go for the win. Which do you choose?

The common theme in each of these situations is that the opportunity exists for something great to happen, and it will not happen by playing it safe.

This is how I view the upcoming Iowa Caucuses. Our world is at a critical juncture. This is no time for the status quo. We need to think big and reach for the stars.

That is why I support Illinois Senator Barack Obama. We have an opportunity for greatness. We have a chance to really make the world a better place. We can forever change the course of history.

Or not. It is up to you. Do you want to settle for less? Or do you want to achieve all that is possible? For me, there is no question.

I urge you to support Barack Obama at the Iowa Caucuses.

I know many people like the idea of a female President. Many who feel this way have worked hard on women's issues, and waited for a long time.

Well, they haven't waited longer or worked harder than Jean Lloyd Jones, Gert McQueen, Mary Jo Small, Mori Costantino, Joyce Carmen, Doris Myers, Valerie Kemp, Pauline Taylor, and Sue Dvorsky.

These are but a few names from a long and distinguished list of local women supporting Barack Obama for President. I urge you to contact any or all of them, and find out why they support Obama.

You may have followed the recent action during the Iowa City Council race when candidate Terry Smith tried to turn candidate Mike Wright's use of the term "activist" into a pejorative. I later found it amusing when the Gazette endorsed Matt Hayek, noting he came from a family of "activists."

I'll admit it - I consider myself a community activist. Perhaps that is why I took exception with Terry's derision of the term.

What does it mean to be an "activist?" In my mind, it means you do not sit back during the political process. You write letters to governments, and letters to the editor. You organize. You call & E-mail others, urging action. You attend every forum you can. You try to convince others of your point.

I think Smith was attempting to create a connection between the term activist and some type of fringe liberalism. I understand his action as a campaign tactic, but activists are clearly not of one political viewpoint.

Locally, there are several right of center activists. Royce Phillips, John Balmer, Dan & Donna Holman, Mike Thayer, and Tim Borchardt all are or have been local activists, and none could be considered a liberal. They are activists because they feel strongly about local issues and act upon those feelings.

Similarly, some people are activists on certain issues. Terry Dahms is a trails advocate. The Reverend Bob Welsh advocates for seniors. American Legion Commander Mike Hull advocates for local Veterans. Doctor Richard Dobbyns advocates for healthier alcohol use in our community. None of these people has a cause that is inherently liberal or conservative; they simply advocate for their beliefs. As an elected official, I can assure you these folks are activists!

I have gotten to know Terry Smith over the past couple years, and I like him. He is a really good guy who does a lot of good work in this community. But frankly, I am disappointed in him for deciding to criticize activists. I understand what he was attempting to do politically, but the fact is, we NEED activists! For one thing, Terry loved the work of the activists that helped shoot down public power!

More importantly, regardless of the issue, we do not need less people speaking out, we need more. It takes some guts to put yourself out there. You automatically open yourself up to criticism. Whether I agree with my fellow activists or not, I hope they keep agitating!

Donations and volunteers are needed for the Homeless Children's Trust Christmas Party on Saturday, December 1 at the Moose Lodge in Iowa City.

HACAP will provide money for each parent to shop at K Mart while the children are entertained. We will provide music, clowns, balloon animals, face painters, dancing, and the Hawkeye Football team will autograph posters. Lunch will be donated by the Bread Garden, and Santa Claus will appear at 12:30 to hand out goodie bags. We need volunteers to help with gift-wrapping, shopping with the parents, kitchen help, monitoring children at the party, and filling stockings Friday afternoon.

Donations may be dropped at Hawkeye Harley Davidson, Senior Center, K Mart, Hills Bank and Trust on Gilbert, Hy-Vee on Waterfront, Kirkwood, and International Automotive Components.

DID YOU KNOW? An average of over 55,000 vehicles pass through the intersection of I-80 and First Avenue in Coralville every day.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website -

"Sullivan's Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!


November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you a safe and happy holiday, and I hope you get the time to really reflect on our bounty. Thanks to all of you for your interest in (or tolerance of) my musings.

Congratulations to Regina and Solon for their outstanding football seasons!
A great football season brings a lot of smiles to a lot of faces. Great job!

The Johnson County Land Use Plan (LUP) Committee has been hard at work for a year updating the County's LUP.

The LUP is one of the most important documents we have. It offers guidelines as to when, where, and how growth and development happen. It lays out where you may and may not farm, run a business, or build a home.

The LUP Committee is a diverse group that has worked extremely hard. A huge thanks to Ellen Kapp, Joe Holland, Pat Cancilla, Jim Dane, Dave Long, Larry Wilson, Ryan Olson, Ryan O¹Leary, Dean Oakes, Dawn Terrell, Alan Peters, Terry Dahms, Glenn Siders, Steve Conklin, and William Albrecht. All have put in a tremendous amount of time and effort. Thanks to one and all!

The time will come soon for public input into the document. Meanwhile, I urge everyone to become familiar with the LUP and the work of the Committee.
Do not wait until the Board¹s final vote to have your say!

There is a great deal of information available on the County website at Please check it out.

Another bit of good news on the P&Z front: according to the Soil and Water Commission, the Sensitive Areas Ordinance adopted by Johnson County has been a big success. It is working as it should, at no additional expense to taxpayers.

Yes, the staff is still feeling its way around the ordinance, but early results look very promising.

Local elections are over, and the so-called "21 ordinance" went down in flames. So 19 & 20 year olds can be in the bars - that has been decided. Yet the reality remains: Iowa City has a serious problem with binge drinking.

I urge all the citizens who care about the effects of binge drinking in Iowa City to keep the pressure on the Iowa City City Council. The public must let the Council know that doing nothing is not an option.

People who complain should be prepared to offer solutions; in keeping with this, I have a suggestion. As is the case in most situations, this issue is all about money. There is money to be made serving underage drinkers.

I suggest that Iowa City begin fining establishments $1000 for every underage drinker they find in the bar. It doesn't matter how they got the alcohol, nor how much they had. Just adopt zero tolerance. An underage drinker in your bar = a grand. Once an establishment is getting fined $10,000 or more per night, they will have financial incentive to follow the law.

It can be done. The Deadwood & Dublin are just two examples of downtown bars that follow the law. Both bars maintain a good business while playing by the rules.

I spoke to lots of people on both sides of this issue prior to the vote.
I cannot count the number of times I heard, "old enough to fight for your country." I think that only serves to reinforce my belief that focusing on the students is a losing proposition. Let's take this argument off the table. (I can't bear to listen to drinking equated with war any longer.) The students are in the bars, and will not be moved. So what CAN be done?

In order to address binge drinking, we need to shift the focus from irresponsible young people to irresponsible bar owners.

Republican Presidential candidates have been running around the country denouncing "socialized medicine." Personally, I think socialized medicine would be great. Despite the BS they try to scare us with, it works very well in most of the civilized world.

Meanwhile, I love this response from Gene Lyons of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (via the Iowa Federation of Labor newsletter):

"We already have socialized water, sewer, trash collection, police, fire, highways, schools, libraries, parks, airports, universities, and even medical schools. We recognize that these are universal human needs too crucial to be left to the vagaries of the marketplace."

I would add that we have socialism for the rich in the form of bailouts, bank deposit insurance, patent and copyright protection, corporate limited liability, Chapter 11 protection, mortgage interest deductions, Federal flood insurance; all forms of "socialism" the wealthy love. But God forbid similar asset protection being extended to the poor through health insurance.

DID YOU KNOW? The local nonprofit Table to Table has rescued and distributed
5 million pounds of food since their inception in 1996.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website -

"Sullivan's Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!


November 13, 2007

November is National Adoption Month. I urge anyone who has ever considered foster care and/or adoption to give me a call.

Congratulations to all the folks who ran in the recent City Council elections throughout Johnson County. Iowa City's vote on 21 sucked much of the oxygen out of the room ­ but upon closer reflection, voters clearly chose change.

Regardless of political leanings, incumbents lost in Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin, Swisher, West Branch, Wellman, and University Heights. I do not EVER recall that type of result.

What does this mean? I think voters are sending a clear message to their elected officials­ do not get too comfortable. The status quo is not good enough. Change won.

Johnson County took a good step recently in adopting a prequalification questionnaire for bidders on public works projects.

What does this mean? Public works projects are typically large enough to require bids. Obviously, the bidding process exists to ensure that taxpayers get the best possible deal, and that the public has all the information.

While the bidding process continues to serve us well in the former situation, it falls short in the latter.

According to State law, bids are awarded to "the lowest responsive responsible bidder." Figuring out the lowest bidder has always been easy; defining "responsible" has not.

The County needs to know if a contractor uses multiple names. We need to know if they finish projects on time and on budget. We need to know if they are named in multiple lawsuits. These are just common sense questions for the County to ask prior to entering into an expensive contract. Developing a consistent way to secure this information protects the public interest.

The questionnaire we adopted is from the American Institute of Architects, so it is widely accepted. Polk County has used it since 1999.

While it does not get at everything I would like ­ for example, "Does the contractor pay benefits to its workers?" and "What is the contractor's OSHA record?" ­ I think this prequalification questionnaire is an excellent step.

Now that the AIA questionnaire has been adopted as County policy, it will be used in every situation where a bid is required.

The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies will host a panel discussion on the "State of Labor in the Global Economy" on Monday, Nov. 19, at 7 pm at the Iowa City Public Library.

This discussion will focus on the economic, social, legal, and ethical implications resulting from massive movements of people and production worldwide. Call 335-4360 for more info.

This is an interesting tidbit - have you ever looked closely at a map of Johnson County? Way over on the far west side of the county, between Hardin and Washington Townships, there is a small notch. Ever notice it? Several other counties have the same phenomenon.

I have long wondered about this, and now, thanks to the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC), I have an answer.

In Iowa, counties are divided into six square mile townships that are further divided into one square mile sections. These are regularly arranged across the state.
But since the Earth is a sphere, and narrower at the top and bottom, it cannot be divided precisely into six-mile squares. So over time, government officials had to adjust the six-mile squares every so often. The result is the notch you see, also known as a correction line. (The Iowa town of Correctionville got its name from this phenomenon.)

Sunday, November 18 from 9:30 to­ 1:00 is the annual Alternative Gift Market at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church. This market offers shoppers the opportunity to support local agencies like Table to Table, Free Med, Shelter House, and many more. In addition, you can buy gifts as diverse as mosquito nets in Africa, clean water projects in South America, and women¹s literacy in Afghanistan. The prices vary, but overall remain relatively cheap. It is truly amazing to see what $5 can do in an impoverished part of the world.

Our family now buys most of our gifts at this event every year. Not only does shopping at the Alternative Market help the greater good; we have found that the people on behalf of whom the gifts are given really like the idea.

My elderly grandmothers no longer thrill at the prospect of a bottle of perfume or a new pair of slippers. But they really enjoy reading about a little girl thousands of miles away who got some benefit in their name. It seems to get right to the heart of what Christianity and Christmas are all about.

DID YOU KNOW? Iowa averages 35 inches of rainfall every year.

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website -

"Sullivan's Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

These messages come solely from Rod Sullivan, and neither represents the viewpoints of the whole Board of Supervisors nor those of groups or individuals otherwise mentioned.

As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!